Ruptured Eardrum

What is a Ruptured Eardrum?

A Ruptured eardrum can happen when there is significant pressure against it, causing perforation. The eardrum’s purpose is to protect the middle ear from outside fluid, foreign objects and any bacteria. A ruptured eardrum can lead to middle-ear infections which could persist for longer periods than that of a standard ear infection.

People can also cause a ruptured eardrum by insertion of objects such as a cotton swab, which is commonly used for ear canal cleaning. Exposure to sudden very loud noises can also cause enough trauma to rupture the eardrum.

What are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Eardrum?

Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum can be quite painful and sudden. It can lead to partial hearing loss which can be temporary or in some instances permanent.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Ringing in the ears (called Tinnitus)
  • Fluid drainage (which sometimes cannot be noticed right away)
  • Vertigo or general feelings of dizziness

Ruptured Eardrum Causes

An ear infection is the most common cause of a ruptured eardrum. The infection occurs in the middle ear, building up pressure pushing against the eardrum causing pain. Eventually, the eardrum bursts, creating a perforation, releasing the fluid from the ear. A second common cause of eardrum ruptures happens when you insert an object into the ear canal, piercing the eardrum. Everyday cotton-tipped swabs, hairpins, or a child’s toys are notorious for causing ear injuries.

A change in air pressure can cause the eardrum to rupture; mountain heights, airplane cabins or underwater diving environments cause unbalanced pressure from the outside and the inside of the ear cavity. Head injuries, a blow to the ear, loud acoustical and concentrated noise or sounds can rupture the eardrum.

In most cases, depending on the severity of the rupture, our body repairs the injury. Other instances, the rupture is permanent, causing a loss of hearing.

How is a Ruptured Eardrum Treated?

Ruptured eardrums can heal within a few months completely on their own. Medications such as acetaminophen or aspirin may be recommended in order to alleviate any pain symptoms. In rare but more serious cases, a specialist may need to assess damage via a scope procedure and minor surgery to insert a patch to protect from any infection.

Prevention and protection of your hearing is vita. People who are exposed to loud volumes on a regular basis need to protect their hearing. In most developed countries, industrial facilities will require hearing protection to be worn.

Ruptured Eardrum Prevention

The best prevention is to never insert objects into the ear canal. If there’s an accident involving the ear, talk with a specialist at once. Sometimes an ears, nose, and throat (ENTs) doctor will insert a tube into the eardrum to relieve the pressure and allow the fluid to drain. Talk with your doctor if you or your child is experiencing ear pain or fluid.

Babies and young children are prone to ear infections, caused by bacteria or a virus from colds, flu, or allergies. Because the Eustachian tubes are still developing, infection and clogs occur more often. Look for signs like the child pulling on the ear, scratching, drainage or fever.

Wear earplugs when swimming to prevent water from getting into the ear. If you work in an environment with loud noises or sounds, earplugs are safety enforcement’s to prevent ear injuries. Follow the rules.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
June 28, 2018